27 June, 2007
Rich Bryant started a meme, and has tagged me. Damn him! Er, I mean, hooray for including me! ;)
This time around: books that have changed your life. Man, no easy answers here for me.
I read a lot of books when I was young, but few of them really made an impact. Even now I try to read a bit every day, but it’s hard to say how many have really changed my life without a long, hard look back. Rarely do you put down a book and have a radically different view of the universe. Most of the time you read the right book at the right time and it clicks with how your world view is changing.
So, I’m scaling back just a bit and picking some of the most influential books I’ve read. Without further ado, here they are:
- The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. If you haven’t read this book and you love fantasy, stop right now and go read it. It’s not terribly long, but it’s extremely good. I read the book in high school, and it was one of the first books where I really got the metaphors in the book without having a teacher explain everything in detail. Peter Beagle is exceptional at writing stories where he gives you just enough to really let your imagination run free. The Last Unicorn has a very serious place in my heart as one of the most influential books. I recently read the sequel “Two Hearts” in Peter’s recent book, The Line Between and loved it. I’m not afraid to admit: it made me cry a bit; it was wonderful to see old friends come back in print like that. (If you have read the original, go read the story using the link above. Keep the tissues handy.)
- The Thomas Covenant Series by Stephen R. Donaldson. I’d say Tolkien, but that’s a bit trite. (Plus, Joe Ludwig already posted that one.) Yeah, I’m cheating a bit since this is a series, but a really good one. Although some people consider these books to be derivative, I think these books were exceptional in their own right. Having an anti-hero visit a fantasy land and how that impacts the world. No happy young teenagers here, only a bitter, sick man. Some people can’t get past a brief and upsetting rape scene early in the first book, but getting past that and you start to see a living world and how actions have consequences. These books offered a fully realized world with living people and interesting issues to consider beyond the rather pastoral presentation of some fantasy worlds. It’s a wonderful setting that would make a fascinating online game world if licensed games are your thing.
- Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. When I worked with Randy Farmer, this was one of a stack of books he handed me about online game and social development. I was a bit confused… until I read the book. Even though the book is arguably about understanding comics, it really talks about the nature of visual art and the creative process. Games are largely defined by the visual aspect, so there are plenty of lessons in the book for game developers. The sequel to the book, Reinventing Comics is good, but focuses a lot more on comics; it also contains a great quote I use when talking about Legitimacy. I recently got Making Comics and hope that is as packed with useful information. (One of the other books in the stack, True Names by Vernor Vinge is also a classic that’s worth reading. Not quite as influential, but mind-boggling how accurate Vinge was in predicting aspects of virtual worlds that many years ago.)
- Werewolf: the Apocalypse (Revised Edition) by White Wolf. Some of you know I’m a huge paper gamer. I started with AD&D like most people (started a bit of 1st edition, I own more 2nd edition books than is healthy, have played some 3/3.5 edition), but it was the other game we played that really captured my imagination. Werewolf was a game that oozed with gothy style. In the game, Werewolves are essentially supernatural eco-terrorists; it’s about as fun and insane as it sounds. It was a bit more rough-and-tumble than White Wolf’s previous offering, Vampire. Some of my fondest role-playing moments are of how our pack interacted given the continous strife built-in between characters. The pre-Apocalypse setting had a lot of really great setting and conflict in the game. The real beauty was that you could play the game how you wanted: it could be a real role-playing challenge, a knock-down fight, or a silly diversion depending on what people wanted. This game really showed me the power of tabletop gaming and how an interesting setting opens up a lot of role-playing opportunities. (I haven’t been quite so fond of the latest edition of the game, however.)
- The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. I’m an introvert, as I’ve written before. It’s one thing to say the word, but another to really understand what it means. This book explains why introverts are the way they are. It also talks about what introvert strengths are; it’s useful for extroverts to read in order to understand how to work best with introverts, too. It’s a superb book all around, and it gave me a lot of those “oh, that’s why I’m like that!” moments. A highly recommended book for anyone that has to deal with people.
Anyway, I’m still wary about passing along memes, so I’ll just put an open invitation here. Feel free to post your own list and track back here. Or, just post a comment if you have a book to mention. No criticizing my list, though. :P